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Former Ohio State employee tries to ease parking transition

Sarah Blouch has been named the director of CampusParc at OSU.

For Sarah Blouch, a former Transportation and Parking official, helping with the transition to privatize parking felt a bit like going to the dark side.
Blouch was named the new director of CampusParc, an arm of QIC Global Infrastructure and LAZ Parking, to control OSU’s parking operations after the $483 million 50-year parking lease agreement was passed by the Board of Trustess in June. The bid on OSU’s parking was placed by QIC, an Australian-based investment firm.
Blouch is the former executive director of OSU Transportation and Parking Services, a department that no longer exists.
“It’s sort of like taking an old business, building it up as a new business, and trying some new things on it,” said Blouch about her new position at CampusParc.
This year when CampusParc took over the operation for parking on campus, and Blouch came with it.
“I would never in a million years have imagined that I would willingly switch. I felt like I was kind of going over to the dark side,” Blouch said.
But the dark side of the for-profit organization turned out to be better than she first thought. After sitting down with its board of directors, Blouch was convinced that together they could improve the parking service on campus.
“They truly want to make the world a better place. They have terrific ethics. They are not out there for this long ‘let’s get all the money we can and run.’ That is not their philosophy at all,” Blouch said.
Bill Lhota, a member of CampusParc’s board of directors and retired president and CEO of Central Ohio Transit Authority, said Blouch is a great addition to the organization. If she continues what she has done before with the support of additional resources and technology, Lhota said she will be able to continue to improve the “excellent” service OSU offered.
Although there will be a cap on possible parking fee increase of 5.5 percent annually for the first ten years of the contract, as written into the 50-year lease contract, Blouch said annual increases have always been in that spectrum.
Blouch said with CampusParc, she doesn’t want campus visitors to have to even think about parking.
“The last thing we want, and I know it’s not always the case and we’ve worked on that for years, is it shouldn’t be the first and last thing you think about when you come to campus,” Blouch said.
Students come to campus for other reasons than parking, which makes it even more important for CampusParc to maintain a good relationship with OSU, Blouch said. Even though CampusParc is set to operate parking for the next 50 years, it will still be tied to a concession agreement OSU set, which acts as a handbook.
“Nothing will change without the university saying, ‘Yeah, we think this is a good idea’ and they have to agree to that. So we just can’t go and slip these changes in,” Blouch said.
She said the operation model is simple: “No surprises.” This means that whatever action CampusParc will take throughout the next years, OSU students will be warned in advance. The only days the operation will step back are universal events, such as football Saturdays. On those days, CampusParc will act as a contract operator that will be dictated by OSU.
“All our folks will be doing is showing up, doing what they’ve been asked to do, collecting the money,” Blouch said. “We turn it back in, we make a deposit and send that back to the university, and then they pay the bill.”
Jay Kasey, senior vice president of Administration and Planning, said in an email the university is very pleased to continue to work with Blouch as the new director.
“We are fortunate to have someone with Sarah’s skill and very unique understanding of our parking operations and our university community overseeing the agreement for our parking management firm,” Kasey said. “We feel strongly this will be a great benefit to the University and will help ensure the continued excellence of the parking operations.”
But the biggest struggle that Blouch and her team face is the management of expectation, she said. Students buy permits and expect to get a parking spot during the busiest times of the day. As a result, they’re often disappointed and upset when they can’t find one.
To keep the transition from OSU to CampusParc as smooth as possible, Blouch said she hopes to hear from students if there are any problems regarding parking.
“Ask a lot of questions,” Blouch said. “Then if your expectations aren’t being met, let us know what that was, ’cause sometimes (students and parking operations) don’t communicate well.”

 

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